RE: [Evolution] CHI'96 paper on mail usability and some thoughts

This is an excellent reference.  I'm going to trim heavily and add a couple
of comments prefaced with, oh, a # sign:

-----Heavily Trimmed Original Message-----

1. heavy mail users use incoming mail as a to-do list and appointment
(I personally would add "as a reference bookshelf" as well in my case);

#Ditto on the reference shelf, but since 1996 I've moved to a workgroup
calendar (several, actually, from CDE's tool to Schedule+ to Outlook 2000,
please don't laugh).  Emails just don't make an effective appointment
tracking tool.  See last comment re: To-dos

2. filing into folders doesn't work in a lot of cases; once it's out of the
inbox it's off the radar and soon forgotten about; and folder names are hard
to pick and remember;

#I make *extensive* use of Outlook 2000's advanced find feature, because
although I try to organize things logically, I can *never* find mail that I
saved.  In fact, I used to have a special inbox rule (don't laugh, really,
don't laugh) that copied all incoming mail to a special archive folder, just
so I could search in one place...  When it hit 2GB a while back our mail
admins slapped me upside the head...

EXMH has a clever feature which can be enabled -- it watches how you file
your mail in folders, and then applies what it learns to all new incoming
mail.  This would be a nifty ADVANCED feature...

3. users quite often do not delete mails in case they become valuable
for an ongoing discussion, resulting in inbox bloat and an interleaved stack
messages from threads filling up the inbox;

#Oh, yeah, I know this problem.  I just cleaned up my O2K (Outlook 2000)
mail, and still have over 6500 messages in my inbox... sigh.  

4. inbox bloat means important mails from a day or two ago soon scroll out
of the "main" window and are lost in the noise.

#In my case, messages from the morining can often scroll out before noon.
That's after extensive inbox rules are applied... sigh again.

to fix these:

* it recommends threading (makes sense, and we know that). This reduces
the visual impact of inbox bloat and sorts 3. and 4.

#threading GOOD, threading VERY GOOD... :)

* close links to PIM functions such as todo and datebook would be good to
with 1.  (that's the plan isn't it!)

* vfolders should deal with 2.

A few ideas I came up with myself during reading it:

* I previously added some code to ExMH to colorise messages, and used
the colours as a way of differentiating "todo low-priority", "todo
"support mails", "pals chatting", etc.  This worked very well as a way to
a lot of mails and immediately work out the rough categorisation without
to read and parse the from and subject.  (unfortunately the code stopped
working in the next ver of ExMH and my Tk knowledge wasn't good enough
to fix it!)  Helps with problem 4 and aids scanning.

#O2K has a colorization scheme, and it works okay.  It's a good stop-gap for
a really effective solution.

-----8< some stuff trimmed >8-------

* Retitling mails (ie. changing their subjects after they've been received)
would help deal with problem 1 as well -- e.g. changing a mail from "Re:
to "How to fix the latest Outlook worm" is obviously handy for future visual
message retrieval ;)

#This is an innovative solution, but could be dangerous -- how about a
supertitle, that supercedes the subject line if present... ?

* It would be handy if an incoming mail can be converted into a To-Do list
in the PIM interface; ie. right-click on mail, select "add to to-do list",
that mail (and/or thread!) would be visible in the To-Do PIM interface in
way (even just as a "see this mail" link a la the "note" attached to Palm
list items).  It'd also be cool if this went both ways so the To-Do list
position/priority of a mail was visible in the inbox view.

#Brilliant!  You aught to be in interface design...

That's it for my comments, I wanted to de-lurk for a minute and speak to
these good points.  Back to lurking...

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